October 30, 2019: This week Gisha wrote an urgent letter (Hebrew) to the director of the High Court Department at the State Attorney’s Office, Adv. Aner Hellman, demanding that the Israeli Health Ministry take immediate action to institute clear procedures and guidelines for coordinating the transfer of processed foods from Gaza for sale in the West Bank. Gisha also demanded that the State Attorney’s Office examine why in the past six months the Health Ministry has failed to respond to multiple inquiries by Gisha on behalf of Gaza manufacturers attempting to market their products in the West Bank.

Since June 2007, Israel has effectively banned the exit of processed foods from the Strip for sale in the West Bank, Israel and abroad. Renewed access to the West Bank, once a major destination market for Gaza-made products, is crucial for economic development in the Strip. In response to a petition filed by Gisha in late 2018 against Israel’s ongoing, de facto ban on exit of processed foods from the Strip, the State argued no prohibition exists on the sale of food products from Gaza in the West Bank or abroad. Paradoxically, the State also admitted to not having established a mechanism to allow for coordination of this process in compliance with Ministry of Health requirements. It claimed that the Health Ministry was examining the issue, but that the examination had “yet to bear fruit”.

In the past six months, Gisha contacted the Health Ministry six times on behalf of the owners of Sarayo Al Wadia, a snack and cookie factory, and the owners of an olive oil press company in an effort to discover what tests and permits are required to coordinate the exit of their products to be marketed in the West Bank. Other than confirming that it had received one of the six letters, the ministry has offered no response. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee in Gaza, the official channel that forwards all permit applications by Gaza residents to Israel, would not accept applications by the owners of Sarayo Al Wadia to coordinate the exit of the company’s products from the Strip, on the grounds that Israel refuses to review applications for marketing Gaza-made processed foods outside the Strip.

In the letter (Hebrew) to the State’s Attorney Office, Adv. Muna Haddad from Gisha emphasizes that the olive harvest is currently underway, adding urgency to the matter at hand. The letter cautioned that: “The unreasonable delay by the Health Ministry in handling the matter effectively precludes any possibility of shipping processed foods from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank and Israel, directly contradicting assurances by the State before the High Court, as well as statements made by your clients whereby they are taking steps to promote development of the local economy in Gaza and to expand opportunities for the sale of locally made products in markets outside the Strip.”